A dead humpback calf washed ashore at the Mangaia harbour last week. CLIMATE CHANGE COOK ISLANDS/23081610
A whale scientist in the Cook Islands expects beached calves to become a more common occurrence as storms grow in intensity due to climate change. Caleb Fotheringham of RNZ Pacific reports.
follows a dead humpback calf washing up in the Southern Group island of Mangaia
late last week.
of Mangaia woke up to an unusual sight yesterday morning after a dead baby
whale washed ashore at the harbour,” Cook Islands News reported last Saturday.
island's mayor Anthony Whyte told the newspaper the dead calf, about three
metres in length, had “cut marks on it...but there was no evidence of the baby
whale being attacked, so we couldn't really determine the cause of death”.
Nan Hauser, who has spent the past three decades studying humpback whales, told
RNZ Pacific that beached calves “is becoming scary”, as humpback whales migrate
to the Pacific Islands from Southern feeding grounds to mate and give birth.
of climate change, we're getting so much intense weather, currents are
changing, waves are getting higher, and storms are getting more intense,” she
actually seeing these calves being pushed away from their mothers and thrown
over the reef, and then they're separated.”
August, a humpback calf had come over the reef in Aitutaki.
we saw that happening last year, I remember speaking to people around the world
about it and they were also worrying that we would see more of that,” Hauser
said whale migration patterns “has to change” but there is little understanding
on how it actually works.
almost as if the migratory pathways and the corridors and the whole migration
pattern is hardwired, it's like ancestral knowledge, its memory, into their
so, all of a sudden, they have to change all this, because where they're going
the water's too warm and their food's not there anymore.”
climate change causing the ocean to become warmer, she said that “also tricks
the biological clock of these animals into thinking…it's time to migrate”.
they're not as fat as they should be, maybe they don't have as much blubber because
they don't eat after they leave Antarctica for sometimes six to eight months.
have to carry all that water in their bodies in their blubber to produce milk
and if the mother's not all that healthy, then the calves are not going to have
the proper nutrition itself.”
said since she began her research in 1998, humpback whales would start showing
up on Rarotonga around June, with the migratory season starting and by July,
the season would be fully active.
she said now the whales do not show up until August.
have whales that show up and pass through because we're just a corridor; they
come through here on their way to true breeding grounds, like Niue or Tonga or
when they show up later here, they don't spend as much time here either. Since
I've been here since 1998 It's been delayed by six or seven weeks over the past
couple of decades.”